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Open letter to science editors
FROM MYTH TO PHYSICAL MODEL
Every catastrophist following a Velikovskian approach to myth must
ask himself: how seriously do I believe that myth can illuminate an unknown
past? The question will pursue the catastrophist relentlessly because his
theoretical approach is challenged every time he wonders if an extraordinary
celestial phenomenon-some possibility yet to be admitted by mainstream
science-might explain a particular form or episode of myth. And the path he
has chosen leaves little room for compromise. Logic does not permit one to
pick and choose which unusual mythical themes one will take seriously. If
myth has a reference in spectacular natural events, then no well-established
mythical theme can be ignored. Sidestepping various themes in order to
bolster a more easily defended interpretation becomes an invitation to a
misunderstanding of the past.
I emphasize this point because one of the biggest potential distractions to
catastrophists is the discussion of elaborate physical models based on a few
mythical fragments. This kind of discussion is not only generally useless
but easily leads to self-deception: it implies that complex historical
questions can be answered by abstract logic, or by mathematical or physical
demonstration. But there are a thousand abstract possibilities, and that
doesn't make any of them true. Moreover, the first effect of arm-chair
theorizing on fragmentary evidence is to discredit the idea that myth is
The goal is not to expound upon purely theoretical models, but to
an unknown past on the basis of pervasive images and pictures-historical
evidence that finds no reference in the natural order today. The logical
focus is the human experience as recorded on papyrus, on clay, and on stone.
Through comparative analysis and cross-referencing, one must seek out the
observed patterns, for it is these patterns that provide the foundation of a
If the well-documented, recurring mythical themes actually originated in a
different celestial order, then a revolution in science and in our
understanding of the past is inevitable. For catastrophists in the
Velikovskian tradition, it is receptivity to the veiled messages of myth
provides a common ground for discussion. Without that receptivity to myth,
what do we talk about?
If you are considering venturing into myth in these terms, however, there is
certain risk. The risk is that, guided by the desire to know what happened,
and finding yourself at the intellectual crossroads, you really do let the
myths speak for themselves, irrespective of conventional teaching or prior
theory. You simply can't take this step without opening the door to
previously unimagined possibilities. When examined comprehensively from a
Velikovskian orientation, with full cross-referencing of recurring themes,
myth will inevitably bring you to a point of no return.
Now one of the reasons to ask whether myth might refer to an alien sky is
simple: All attempts to explain myth-even the most explicitly astral myths-
by present behavior of presently-observed celestial bodies have failed. Is
there any global mythical theme that can be explained by reference to the
present celestial order? Not one-among hundreds of well-developed motifs.
Once you realize that the myths speak for unfamiliar experiences-that they
reflect celestial forms no longer present, or events no longer occurring in
nature-you are entering uncharted territory. And if the excursion has any
sane and rational justification, then the groundrules for study of the past
are radically changed.
The key is to follow the anomaly. For example: perhaps you begin to notice
that a variety of mythical themes all point to an anomalous conclusion about
the past-say, the planet Venus' former cometary identity (first discerned by
Velikovsky). You begin to wonder if Venus' recurring identity as soul-star,
hair star, bearded star, serpent-dragon, torch of heaven, feathered serpent,
bearded serpent, hairy serpent, fiery serpent, etc.-all acknowledged pre-
astronomical glyphs of the comet-might actually be explained by the most
straightforward interpretation possible, even though that interpretation
obviously conflicts with modern theory.
Are these mythical images themselves worth pursuing to a higher level of
detail, to see how well the suggested pattern holds up under closer scrutiny
and to see what complementary patterns might emerge? If you choose to
disregard the cometary interpretation because it isn't scientifically
supported, then you are closing the door. If, on the other hand, you simply
suspend judgment and explore the imagery to test its underlying coherence,
you are already approaching the point of no return. You can't justify this
kind of exercise on the basis of one anomaly and then resist the exercise as
you begin to encounter other equally compelling patterns, all suggesting
something entirely different from what we see in the sky today.
I can remember, as a first impression of myth, little more than a jumble of
meaningless, disconnected ideas. Nothing seemed more futile than seeking out
an intelligent account. In these early encounters, the mass of random
details didn't even look interesting! And this is why, today, I can't
anyone just casually glancing at the myths, and finding something
Each time I returned, however, the sense of coherence or underlying unity
heightened. And gradually I could see distinctive patterns that simply
couldn't be explained away. The more you become aware of these patterns, the
more confident you become that something incredible happened, and it is
not useful to interpret the patterns through conventional references. Let's
not forget that every previous attempt to interpret and explain myth by
reference to the Sun, Moon, stars or planets today has lasted only as long
it took the critics to set pen to paper.
I offer here some general observations on the character of world mythology,
noting a few of the "anomalous" facts one must confront in seeking an
explanation of myth as a whole.
1. No recurring mythical theme is explained by the present celestial order.
This is an amazing fact, in view of many hundreds of identifiable themes.
inescapable conclusion: it is self-defeating to ignore the possibility of a
2. There is no evidence that early man was a fabricator in the sense
It's impossible to immerse oneself in the mythical world without realizing
that the storyteller himself is bound to the integrity of the original
experience, though the first storytellers could not help but interpret, or
project meanings onto experienced phenomena. The highest obligation of
ancient storytelling was to be true to the remembered event, to get the
right. Conversely, there is no documented instance of "primitives" inventing
a central episode of myth. The duty of the storyteller is to repeat the
as it was told by his predecessors.
In myth, the event itself is filtered through the subjective interpretation
projection of those experiencing it. Event and interpretation are the story.
No living dragon ever flew about in the sky. But it is preposterous to
assume that the global myth of the dragon was unrelated to anything actually
experienced by man. Early man did not-could not-fabricate the events
inspiring the interpretation.
Honoring the story by repeating it in words reflected the same fundamental
impulse as all other forms of imitation and alignment in ancient ritual,
and architecture. Recitation of the story momentarily transported both the
storyteller and the listener backwards to the mythical epoch, which was
experienced as more compelling, more "true" than the later age. That's why,
among all early civilizations, as noted by Mircea Eliade and others, the age
of myth provided the models for all sacred activity.
3 Recurring mythical themes are almost certainly prehistoric.
The basis of this generalization is a simple provable fact. All fundamental
mythical themes will be found in very early historical sources, and the
related signs and symbols will be found in prehistoric settings. This rarely
acknowledged fact, which could be easily disproved if incorrect, is of
incredible significance. If early man was habituated to making up
one would expect an endless stream of new mythical themes-new forms and
personalities arising as if from nowhere. This absence of invention forces
us to ask: what unknown ancient experience could have produced the massive
story content of myth, including hundreds of underlying patterns that have
lasted for thousands of years?
4. All myths are associated with "the age of the gods."
Now what do you think that people meant by that expression? The Egyptians
called the lost epoch "the age of the primeval gods"-which began with the
Zepi, the First Time or golden Age of Ra. The age of the gods was not only
dramatically different from the present age, it represented for all ancient
nations a preferred order, a standard and reference for all later activity.
Mythically speaking, as the phrase "age of the gods" suggests, man lived
to the gods, or in communion with the gods, or the gods lived on earth in
some sense, on the world's highest mountain, occupied the central province,
kingdom, or island. But again, none of this means anything, in a casual
observation of myth. No theory of myth that is unable to account for the age
of the gods can explain its subject.
5. The gods are no longer present.
The age of gods, in all variations on the theme, passes into a more mundane,
more confused age, a less interesting, less real, less dramatic, less heroic
time, which can only take sustenance from reference backwards. The gods and
heroes departed, and in numerous accounts the departure of a god or hero is
accompanied by great upheaval.
If we can oversimplify the many forms in which the departure of one or
god occurs, the most common idea is transfiguration into a distant star-in
the more meticulously elaborated astronomies, a specific planet. Countless
other forms of transfiguration, as a "soul-bird" a "feathered serpent," a
comet, a stone, a column of smoke, when examined in detail, consistently
support the planetary transfiguration.
6. Through storytelling over time, the gods are brought down to earth.
In the course of re-enactment and storytelling over the centuries, the
celestial gods become the aged kings and warring heroes, the great queens
long-haired princesses of epic literature. That this process occurred is
easily verifiable because there are countries in which the process can be
observed over many centuries, perhaps a couple of millennia. In the case of
the Egyptian Ra, the prototype of the good king, or Shu or Horus, prototypes
of the hero Hercules, you can see this transformation clearly in the
classical histories of Egypt. Similarly, all of the personalities and motifs
associated with the great queens and princesses of folk tale will be found
the images of the Egyptian Nut, Isis, Hathor and other unequivocally
celestial goddess figures. But in the later accounts, all of the events
on earth and the players, though charismatic and possessing great magical
powers, become increasingly human.
7. The first civilizations arose from attempts to celebrate or recapture the
age of the gods.
The degree of early man's orientation backwards, to the age of the god's, is
extraordinary. The definitive features distinguishing early civilizations
from the more pastoral age that preceded them seem to have arisen as ritual
expressions, honoring, re-enacting and extending celestial forms and
episodes in the age of the gods. The first writing, vital technologies,
monumental architecture, the rise of kings and larger-scale political
organization, rites of sacrifice and wars of conquest-all of these
attributes and tendencies of the first civilizations- can be traced to
religious or ritual practices in which men sought to re-live and to extend
the Prime Example provided in the mythical age. It is not an exaggeration to
say that the makers of civilization never built anything considered sacred
undertook any religious act without first finding inspiration and guidance
a celestial prototype. And all traditions agree that prototype arose in the
age of the gods.